Alarms make sure you are immediately informed of machine issues – to prevent downtime or schedule maintenance. Handling alarms from your HMI or PLC can cost a lot of programming hours, but having these alarms has proven to be very useful when it comes to troubleshooting.
Before you start installing new alarming modules, read this article to find an alternative method. Save valuable time on programming and even inform your teams or customers about what’s happening.
Why do you need a PLC/HMI alarm system?
Alarms, faults and warnings are crucial components of every automated system. They’re used to prevent machine damage, which could lead to critical failures or injury to an operator, and to monitor the system’s performance.
To be effective, these alarms are often defined in PLC/HMI alarm systems – close to the source. They’re usually easy to troubleshoot and can provide information to anyone working with the equipment.
What is an alarm, and what is a warning?
“An alarm is a detectable condition that keeps a machine from running, and it requires immediate operator intervention or the machine stops.
Warnings are similar to alarms but don’t always require operator intervention. An alarm stops cycles in progress, such as when a gripper does not advance. A warning may stop a cycle from starting, such as when the infeed is waiting for parts.?”
– Source: Control Design
The common way of programming alarms in your PLC and HMI
There are options to program alarms in the HMI, but it’s usually integrated in the PLC. You write functionalities in the PLC to indicate that something is wrong, the HMI reads this information and flashes a led indicator. The alarm is now locally visible at the HMI panel or some other kind of indicator near the machine.
To add different ways of informing operators, managers or engineers (who are not on-site) you need to think of alternative methods, like email or push messages.
Receiving active alarm notifications on your email or smartphone
Email or SMS messages are common ways of receiving machine alarms, even when you’re not near the machine. You can send email messages from the PLC or HMI screen, but this requires additional coding. Sometimes you even need an (SMTP) mail server to prevent emails from ending up in the SPAM folder.
Sending SMS messages may require separate hardware, like an SMS module, and some configuration to get it up and running.
The disadvantages of local and custom alarms systems
When using a local alarming system or custom setup, you may come across the following issues:
- Change in alarm settings or email address requires a PLC software update
- No centralized alarm logging to access faults remotely
- Need for structural maintenance on mail servers and continuous system monitoring
- No backup scenario when internet is down or machine power is switched off.
This can harm your machine in critical situations. Which is why IXON developed an alarming function that reduces risks, makes for simple implementation and keeps it easy to maintain.
The easiest way to handle PLC alarms: Cloud Notify
With IXON’s alarming and notifications feature, called Cloud Notify, you can create alarms based on the data source of your machine. Fully managed on the web-based IXON Cloud without programming and compatible with all modern PLC brands.
How IXON’s alarming feature works
In short, the IXrouter (edge gateway connected with your PLC and/or HMI) contains advanced alarm capturing to define and monitor alarms and events using industry protocols. The alarms are constantly monitored by the IXrouter based on the configuration in the IXON Cloud. Once an alarm or warning is captured, a signal is sent to the IXON Cloud and the receivers get an instant message of the event. In this video we explain how you can set up alarms using IXON Cloud.
Direct access to your PLC or HMI to solve machine issues
Once the alarm is fired, you (or your customer) can access your machine using industrial remote access (VPN) or control your HMI screen through the mobile app using Cloud Access. You can even check the machine’s data dashboards to get better insights into its status. All available on the IXON Cloud platform and smartphone apps to help you reduce unplanned downtime.
Making PLC alarming even more powerful with third-party integrations
Solutions like PagerDuty, VictorOPS, Zapier provide additional functionalities for incident management like SMS, on-call management, automated escalation or central alarm logging in Google Sheets. If you (or your customer) have these specific needs, then the Cloud Notify feature is for you! You can also easily integrate any third-party solution using webhooks.
7 Benefits of cloud-based alarming & notifications for PLC/HMI
- Alarms & notifications are sent and managed from the cloud – no coding required
- Get informed just the way you want (email, push message, webhooks)
- Audit trail with a centralized log overview and ways to export to csv or API
- Manage the recipients and priority of any alarm
- Receive a notification if the machine or IXrouter goes offline
- Supported protocols include OPC-UA, ModBus, Siemens S7, Ethernet/IP,
- BACnet, SMTP and digital input